Summary: We're called to follow the Savior and focus on sinners.
Eating Supper with Sinners
Rev. Brian Bill
November 14-15, 2015
I’ve been a bit quiet about the Green Bay Packers lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed. It may or may not be because they’ve lost their last two games. I actually have a solid theory about why they haven’t been winning. It can all be traced to the release of the McDonald’s commercial that featured long-time Bears Coach Mike Ditka wearing a Packers sweater.
Former Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary couldn’t take it any longer when he called Ditka out on Thursday: “How in the world did they have you do that? There’s just some things you can’t do.” Initially Bear fans winced when they saw him wearing green and gold but now I’m wondering if it wasn’t all part of a plan to throw the Packers off their game. I think Ditka should go back to rooting for the Bad News Bears and everything will get back to normal.
It was unsettling for fans to see ‘Da Coach’ rooting for a team that he actually has hated for decades. In our passage for today, we’re going to see that it was even more jarring for some religious fans to see a hated tax collector change sides and follow Jesus.
Let’s stand and read Mark 2:13-17 together: “He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Our outline for today is simple.
• Follow the Savior (13-14)
• Focus on Sinners (15-17)
Follow the Savior
Look at verse 13: “He went out again beside the sea…” We learned last week that Jesus has been in Capernaum, which is located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. People start running to him again: “and all the crowd was coming to him…” The tense of this word is that the crowd is building: “and He was teaching them.” The idea is that He “kept teaching.” We know from 1:14 that He was proclaiming the gospel of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
In the midst of all the people, Jesus noticed a person.
1. He saw Levi. Check out verse 14: “And as he passed by He saw Levi the Son of Alphaeus…” Jesus is on mission wherever He goes. Just like we’re to be. Crowds of people are everywhere and yet He locks on to Levi. His parents had a lot of hope for him because he was named after one of the sons of Jacob. It was from the tribe of Levi that the priesthood was descended. Levi would have been raised to fulfill some kind of religious responsibility.
We make judgments based upon personal appearances but Jesus saw something more. In Matthew 9:9 we read: “He saw a man.” Jesus sees past the sin and sees a servant. He can tell Levi is unsatisfied and searching for something of significance. When Jesus looks at people, He sees potential. He knows you’re a mess but He also knows that you matter to Him. He sees what no one else can see. He sees your guilt and shame but He also has plans and purposes for you. Others may remind you of your past but He sees your future.
“sitting at the tax booth…” Levi was a tax collector, which was another way of saying that he was “the scum of the earth.” He had purchased a tax franchise, which allowed him to charge taxes on anyone walking by his tax booth. He was required to send in a certain amount of taxes to Rome but he could charge whatever he wanted and keep the extra as personal profit. As a result, tax collectors, like Zacchaeus, often became very wealthy.
Capernaum was on the caravan route between east and west so it was a perfect place to set up a tax booth. He collected on imports and exports, on bridges, roads and harbors. He would tax the number of axles on a wagon, the number of legs on a donkey, and charge a pedestrian tax if someone was out walking. He also charged taxes on the number of fish the fishermen caught. Tax collectors were…